14 400 killed by regime troops in Syria since uprising say observers

In this citizen journalism image taken on Saturday, June 16, 2012 and provided by Edlib News Network ENN, a Syrian woman holds a poster during a demonstration in the northern village of Hass, in Idlib province, Syria. (Edlib News Network, AP)

In this citizen journalism image taken on Saturday, June 16, 2012 and provided by Edlib News Network ENN, a Syrian woman holds a poster during a demonstration in the northern village of Hass, in Idlib province, Syria. (Edlib News Network, AP)

Syrian troops shelled several rebel strongholds overnight and on Saturday, including Douma in northern Damascus and the central city of Homs, with a watchdog reporting at least 36 people killed nationwide.

Three women were among seven killed in the bombardment of the opposition bastion of Douma, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a grassroots network of activists, said regime forces have been shelling Douma for three days.

Elsewhere in Damascus province, five civilian men were killed in Saqaba, the Observatory said, adding that some of them had been “slaughtered” with knives.

“This kind of killing has become common in recent weeks,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France-Presse (AFP), adding that an independent investigation was needed.

In the same region, a man, his wife and their child were killed when their house in the town of Irbin was hit by a shell, the Observatory said.

It also reported that regime forces shot dead a man at a checkpoint in the Damascus province town of Al-Tal, while a student was shot dead on the outskirts of Ashrafiyet Sahnaya.

Two others were killed during the night in Kfar Batna, also in Damascus province, while one woman died in Maadamiyat al-Sham in the same province.

Shelling and shooting by regime forces over various districts of Homs city—including Khalidiyeh, Bab Tadmur, Jourat al-Shiah and Safsafa—killed five people, the Observatory said.

It reported the Homs killings after warning that more than 1 000 families were besieged in several districts of the city, which have been pounded intermittently by regime forces for several months.

Shelling and machinegun fire
In the province of Homs, five people were killed in the village of Farhaniyeh when regime forces bombed their area, the watchdog added.

Elsewhere, the Observatory said, four regime troops were killed during the night, one in a blast in Damascus and three in clashes in rebel bastion Rastan in Homs province.

Anti-regime activist Abu Rawan described the shelling of Rastan as “insane.”

“In addition, every car that enters or leaves the town gets shot at with heavy machinegun fire,” he told AFP via Skype.

In the southern province of Daraa, two rebel leaders were killed in clashes near a regime checkpoint.

The Observatory said at least 100 people were arrested by regime forces in Damascus, while the LCC reported house-to-house raids and mass arrests in the central province of Hama, one of the first to join the anti-regime uprising.

At least 54 people died in violence on Friday—43 civilians, eight regime troops and three rebel fighters, the watchdog said.

According to the Observatory, more than 14 400 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime erupted in mid-March 2011.

UN suspends mission
The Syrian foreign ministry said on Saturday it “understands” the decision of the UN observers’ mission head to suspend work in the country, saying “terrorist groups” were threatening its members.

“The ministry understands the decisions taken by General Robert Mood, particularly those related to preserving the safety of observers,” the official SANA news agency reported, referring to the head of the UN mission.

The report said that the ministry was “notified” on Friday night by General Mood of his decision to “temporarily reduce the work of observers because of what he called the escalation of violence targeting them.”

“The armed terrorist groups have intensified their criminal operations, especially those against UN observers, and are threatening their lives” since Syria agreed to the terms of international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, the ministry said.

The government refers to rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces as “terrorist groups.”

The foreign ministry accused Arab and international groups of “providing terrorists with sophisticated weapons and communication equipment to help commit their crimes and defy the United Nations.”

On Saturday, General Mood in a statement announced the suspension of the UN mission.

The unarmed UN observers have been targeted almost daily since deploying in mid-April to monitor a UN-backed but widely ignored ceasefire.

Explaining his decision, General Mood spoke of an escalation in fighting and of the risk to his 300-strong team, as well as the “lack of willingness” for peace by the warring parties.—Sapa-AFP.


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